New Netflix fantasy series Shadow and Bone is quite an adventure, immersing fans in the strange, Tsarist Russia-like world of Ravka with its powerful “Grisha” warriors, who pose great challenges to key protagonist Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li).
By the end of the series’ eighth episode, Alina has become the potential saviour of Ravka, a Sun Summoner, a fugitive and a magical slave – but as she faces up to her greatest foe, Shadow and Bone concludes with an almighty clash (and a cliffhanger) that viewers are sure to be talking about for some time to come.
So what did Shadow and Bone’s final scenes really mean, and what could they tell us about a potential season two? Check out our analysis – with a little help from original series author Leigh Bardugo and showrunner Eric Heisserer – below.
“I hope [the ending] makes fans want to watch it all over again,” Bardugo tells RadioTimes.com.
“I hope it’s a world that they are able to get lost in, and find some escape in, and find some hope in – or maybe just go on a wild ride. And I hope they’ll take to the internet to demand a second season!”
**Warning – major spoilers from later episodes will be included from hereon out.**
Shadow and Bone ending explained
The series ends with General Kirigan/The Darkling (Ben Barnes) showing his true colours, capturing Alina and binding her with a powerful Grisha amplifier that increases her powers while also giving him control over them. With Alina in his grasp, he uses her light-summoning abilities to safely travel into the deadly Shadow Fold. There he is able to use his own Shadow-Summoner abilities to extend the Fold and destroy the small town of Novokribirsk and the people therein as a show of force.
However, Alina is able to shake off his control (and the amplifier), and after a pitched battle between both their allies, Kirigan is attacked and carried off by one of the flying volcra that live in the Fold.
Following this, Alina is able to take the survivors on the skiff out of the Fold, where they make their peace with one another before planning to leave Ravka. Master thieves Kaz, Inej and Jesper (Freddy Carter, Amita Suman and Kit Young) are headed back to Ketterdam, where unlucky-in-love heartrender Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) tags along in the hope of finding work and freeing her enemy-turned-lover Matthias (Calahan Skogman).
In the Grishaverse books, Alina and her friend Mal (Archie Renaux) head to a country called Noyvi Zem at this point, to try to escape detection – however, the series implies they might be headed to Ketterdam as well, leaving the door open for more crossovers between the different characters if there’s a season two.
“I think that the end of this series pays respect to both sets of characters and where they may end up,” series author Leigh Bardugo tells RadioTimes.com.
What was going on with the stag?
A key storyline in Shadow and Bone was the hunt for Morozova’s stag, a magical beast that could enhance the power of any Grisha who successfully hunted it down and used its antlers.
In the series, Mal and Alina successfully track it down – but Alina ends up unable to kill it, instead wondering if there’s “another way”. Following this, The Darkling turns up to kill the stag himself and place the amplifier on Alina. With help from Fabrikator David (Luke Pasqualino), he’s able to enhance her power and (via a piece of antler in his hand) control it himself, at least to begin with.
However, as in the books, Alina later realises that the stag had “chosen” her before it was killed, with the received wisdom about amplifiers (basically, the person who killed the animal got the power) proven to be incorrect. With this realisation (and the magical appearance of the stag in a dream sequence) the unsightly spiked horns shrivel into Alina’s skin and disappear, while her extra power remains.
Is General Kirigan/The Darkling alive?
He is indeed. In the final scene of the series, a slightly battered-looking Kirigan emerges from the Shadow Fold, covered in wounds and scars from his encounter with the volcra. Turning back, he whispers one word – “follow” – before beginning on his journey, accompanied by strange, smoke-like soldiers about eight feet tall and snarling behind him.
It’s quite a cliffhanger to leave the series on – in fact, it’s a bit of story taken from Bardugo’s second book, Siege and Storm – and according to the author herself, it’s a definite push from the production team towards a hoped-for second season.
“When I was writing Shadow and Bone, I had never published a book,” she tells RadioTimes.com. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to sell this book.
“And so it was written in a very contained way, even though I had notes for two other books in the trilogy. If you’re an aspiring author, that’s a lot of hubris if you’re like, ‘Well, you can have the trilogy, or you can’t have anything.’
“So I got lucky, and got a publisher who was willing to take that risk, and take that on. In this case, I think we were like, ‘Let’s stack the deck. We have the stories.’
The monsters accompanying Kirigan in this final scene are a key part of the book series, and are a major threat going forward. Called nichevo’ya, the shadow warriors are created by the Darkling/General Kirigan using a forbidden kind of Grisha magic called “merzost,” and if this series follows the books they’ll accompany him on his campaigns against the Ravkan throne and Alina in future instalments.
Notably, the nichevo’ya are distinct and different to the volcra, the flying monsters who live in the Fold and who were once transformed from men centuries before by the Darkling. While the volcra are living beings who hunt for food, the nichevo’ya are only summoned when the Darkling needs them, and have no need for food, sustenance or rest. The idea is that Kirigan’s clash with the volcra awakened something in him, giving him the ability to call up these new monsters.
Essentially it’s an invincible army of immortal smoke monsters who can just about appear in any location. Can’t imagine that causing many problems.
Will there be a Shadow and Bone season 2?
While apparently there isn’t an official “green light” just yet, the ending of the series certainly suggests a season two is planned.
“I think hope springs eternal, right?” says Bardugo. “All I can say is, we have a plan – a cunning plan. There’s a lot of road. We just don’t know if we’ll get to walk it again.
“I think we’re all just sitting here with our fingers crossed and, you know, have the prayer circles going.”
Want more show content? Read our Shadow and Bone review.